“Whether it is a police officer in cahoots with the local politician or a seer who tells the future, playing each character is like peeling an onion”, says Dibyendu Bhattacharya. “You keep peeling till you reach the core,” he says.
The character artist who has starred in a number of blockbuster films like Dev D and Black Friday has applied this philosophy since his foray into acting in 1988 through a theatre group in Kolkata. While the journey and his pursuit for roles in Bollywood have not easy, Dibyendu says he has stuck to the basics.
Even while getting his undergraduate degree in Commerce in Calcutta, he was always ready to go up on stage, he says.
Dibyendu adds that his aim to be professionally trained had manifested in the form of an opportunity to study at National School of Drama, New Delhi in the 1990s. Once he entered the institution, he could guiltlessly contribute time to the theatre.
After NSD, Dibyendu says that he tried to juggle working as a senior actor and a government employee, patiently waiting for opportunities and auditions to present themselves.
Since then, in a career spans over 20 years with movies in both Hindi and Bengali Cinema, Dibyendu’s performances have been noted and lauded in several films. He has played iconic roles including those like Chunni Babu in Dev D (2009), Yeda Yakub in Black Friday (2004), Biswa Paathak in Jamtara: Sabka Number Ayega (2020), Layak Talukder in Criminal Justice (2019), Peer Baba in Ray (2021) and many more.
Although the actor has gotten his fair share of trolling and online abuse for his role of of a heartless jail inmate in the show Criminal Justice on Disney+ Hotstar,plays the role, he stands unfazed and has been booking a number of new projects.
Recently, he even won the SPOTT Awards for supporting actors for his performance in the show Jamtara: Sabka Number Ayega which airs on Netflix.
In an interview with Silverscreen India, Dibyendu talks about his busy shooting schedule post the lockdown. He also speaks about winning his recent awards, facing trolls and taking a realistic approach to the roles he is offered.
Jamtara was a huge hit, and your character was the viewer’s favourite. Was the attention overwhelming?
As actors, we are always looking to do quality work, and when that receives recognition of any kind, it is always overwhelming. I have never paid heed to whether the role is big or small, but what I do think is important is that it is impactful. Jamtara is a show that continues to be an absolute success and it does deserve all the accolades it can receive. I am glad that I can contribute to it too.
What process do you undertake to prepare for a role? Does it come to you from observing people in real life or do you just focus on what the script demands?
When the script is provided, I plan the features of a character based on the information provided by the script. However, one needs to go beyond that to understand the role a bit deeper. I feel like one must find some point of uniqueness in a character. Till the time one does not get that, it is not possible to bring character to life.
I love playing characters and do not really bother about the length. For instance, I played the character of Peer Baba in the Netflix anthology Ray. It is a small role but impactful. Viewers applauded it. They loved that small appearance. In coming years, there will surely be more such lovable characters.
Many of your projects were either shelved or delayed due to the lockdown. What is it like to jump from that phase to working a 12-hours shift now.
It has suddenly created a lot of pressure because everybody wants to shoot now, and I am committed to everyone. But the question is, when do I find the time?
I am currently shooting in Manali where the weather fluctuates between hot summery days to wet monsoon like conditions. The schedule got messed up because of these showers. I am suddenly also working a night shift now. The hours are strange and have at least 12 hours of work. Sometimes it also extends but what can we do. The show must go on.
After Criminal Justice you ended up getting lots of hate mails and threats. How did you deal with them?
At first, I got scared because I was not used to it. I felt weird because the comments of these trolls were very personal and threatening. Then people around me told me that this sort of thing happened often. People who troll end up taking everything to heart and forget about the fact that the person on the receiving end is an actor who is supposed to do all kinds of roles.
Do you go grocery shopping on your scooter as easily as you used to before you found fame in shows like Jamtara or Undekhi?
Yes. I still roam around. I own a yellow Vespa scooter. Whenever I want to step out, I take it out for a spin. Fans have recognised my vehicle in the past but that is okay. I like to live freely and go to buy vegetables if I want to.
Would you like to talk about your upcoming projects?
There is an upcoming film with Ribhu Dasgupta, and I will be returning as Officer-in-charge Biswa Pathak for the second season of Jamtara. I have two more shows-Khuda Hafiz 2 and Undekhi 2. There are two other projects which are in the works and will be released soon.